Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Father Factor Part 1 (with apologies to Bill O'Reilly)

For those who listened to my message, “The Father Factor,” and are checking out these hints as a result, thanks for stopping by. If you haven’t heard the message and are curious what this post is all about, consider it a collection of pointers on how to be a major “factor” in the life of your family. That’ll suffice as an intro (if only I could speak that quickly, eh?)

1. Model what you expect and include them when you can. Nothing carries greater weight than a walking, living example. So if you want to be a factor in their physical development, then keep your weight off, and even try and exercise with them as they get older. If you want them to spend wisely and save weekly, do it yourself first. If you want them to learn self control, then you respond calmly to your spouse. If you want to pass on a lifelong skill that has helped you, then you show them how, in addition to telling them how. As parents age, we tend to become “armchair” moms and dads, using our voice more than our lives. Stay committed to walking with them, not just speaking at them.

2. Adjust to the seasons of the journey. Family life is all about seasons of life, and you can be a major factor if you approach it in that way. For instance, when your kids are little, parenting just takes a lot of time. And I mean a lot! So adjust your work and hobbies accordingly. As they age, however, you’ll have more discretionary time (but less money probably!). When that starts occurring, adjust again. You get the point, right? I’ve discovered that often men want to live with a 2-year old like they have a son or daughter who is a 12-year old. Or a 22-year old. The result? Frustration! If we don’t adjust to the season we’re in, our expectations are never in line with reality, and that can lead to major problems.

3. Learn the “Pace Principle.” In a nutshell, the Pace Principle is all about being quickest when they’re youngest. I wrote about this in an earlier blog, but let me expand here a bit and say that, as kids mature and age, you don’t have to be quite as quick. This is no big surprise – As kids become more self-sufficient and less dependent, you, in turn, can become more trustworthy and less intrusive. Ideally, that’s a good thing! In fact, as your children enter the years where they are thinking more abstractly, you want to be more choosy with your actions and words. This doesn’t mean you’re slow, but you do have a little more time on the shot clock to work with (to use a basketball analogy).

4. Ask lots of questions…and listen to the answers. Questions breed conversation, and few things help you get to know your child/spouse like conversations. It’s the stuff relationships are made of! And it’s how we can be a significant factor. Of course, parents have long been labeled with the “you-never-listen-to-me” stigma, so once you ask, listen. And listen all the way to the end. Then ask more questions! Odd as it may sound, most kids provide their own answers – and yours! – if you ask enough questions. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you agree; it simply means you’re polite. And when it is your turn to talk, you’ll be glad you modeled what courtesy looks like.

[Click here for Part 2]

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